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parental favoritism effects

What is Parental Favoritism?

Parental favoritism is when a parent shows preference for one child over another. This may be in the form of giving more attention or gifts, or it could be something as simple as always taking your side in an argument with your siblings. It can also happen when you're treated differently than your siblings at home and out in public (like being allowed to stay up later than them).

It's important to note that not all parents show favoritism; some are completely evenhanded in their treatment of all their kids! However, if you feel like yours isn't, there are ways to deal with it–and even learn from it!

Longterm Effects of Parental Favoritism

  • Long-term effects of parental favoritism can be seen in a child's self-esteem. Children who are favored by their parents may develop a sense of superiority and entitlement, while those who are not favored will feel inferior and worthless.
  • The effects of parental favoritism can also have an impact on sibling relationships. Siblings who are treated differently by their parents may grow up feeling resentful towards each other or even compete for their parent's attention and approval (which is never guaranteed).
  • Additionally, children who experience parental favoritism may develop mental health issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and more serious psychological disorders such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia later in life

Why Does Parental Favoritism Happen?

Parental favoritism is when a parent shows preference for one child over another.

While there are many reasons why parental favoritism happens, the most common reason is parental guilt. Parents who feel guilty about how they parent one child over another may try to make up for it by showing more affection or giving more privileges to the favored child.

Another common cause of parental favoritism is differences in parenting styles between parents. You might have a parent who believes in strict discipline and another who believes that kids should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as no one gets hurt or property is damaged. If you're lucky enough to fall into this category, then your parents might treat you differently because they think one method works better than another–and that's okay! But if they're constantly fighting over how best (or worst) way would be for raising children? Then things could get ugly fast…

How to Cope with Parental Favoritism Effects

  • Seek counseling. If you're feeling hurt by your parents' favoritism and want to talk to someone about it, consider seeking professional help. A therapist can help you work through the emotions surrounding parental favoritism, as well as give you tools for dealing with it in the future.
  • Understand your feelings. It's important to recognize what's going on inside of yourself when you feel like a parent is favoring one child over another–are you jealous? Do these feelings make sense given the circumstances? Try writing down what happened, how it made you feel and why it happened so that they don't get buried under other thoughts or emotions that may be clouding things up when trying figure out what truly matters here (e.g., “My brother got more attention than me because he was sick all the time.”).
  • Set healthy boundaries between siblings if necessary.. If there are times where one sibling feels like they're being treated unfairly because of their relationship with Mommy Dearest then set some ground rules: no talking badly about each other behind closed doors; agree not talk about each other at family gatherings unless invited by both parties first; make sure everyone gets equal time with family members outside their immediate circle (i.,e., grandparents).

The Role of the Sibling in Parental Favoritism

sibling relationship issues

The sibling relationship is an important factor in parental favoritism. When a parent favors one child over another, it can create competition between siblings. Siblings may resent each other, which can lead to tension and conflict in the home. This can also cause children to feel misunderstood or rejected by their parents because they don't receive as much attention from them as their favored sibling does.

In order for a family unit to function well, it's important for parents and children alike to understand the dynamics at play between them so that everyone feels loved equally by their family members no matter what happens outside of the home environment (such as school).

The Role of the Parent in Parental Favoritism

It's important to recognize the role of the parent in parental favoritism, as well as setting boundaries and being aware of the effects.

If you are a parent who has been accused of showing favoritism toward one child over another, it's important that you take steps to ensure that both children feel loved and cared for equally. You may need help from other family members or friends in order to make sure this happens effectively.

You should also keep in mind that even though your intentions are good when it comes to favoring certain behaviors or traits in one child over another (e.g., wanting them both equally successful), this can still cause problems for siblings who don't receive enough attention from their parents due to their sibling getting preferential treatment instead!

The Role of Society in Parental Favoritism

The role of society in parental favoritism is a complex one. When you look at the way that people are raised, it becomes clear that our parents are influenced by societal expectations and stereotypes. They may also feel pressure to conform to these expectations, which can have an impact on how they raise their children.

For example, if you're a woman who wants to be a doctor but your mother was told by her parents and society that women should not pursue careers outside of the home because it would be too difficult for them or their families (or both), then this could influence how she raises her daughter–and how much time she spends with her daughter when she's young.

Impact of Parental Favoritism on Mental Health

mental health wellbeing

Favoritism can have a negative impact on the mental health of children, especially if they are not the favored child. The favored child might also be at risk for developing mental health issues as a result of being treated differently from other siblings or peers.

How to Help a Child Coping with Parental Favoritism

  • Provide support.
  • Teach coping skills.
  • Listen to your child's feelings and concerns, but don't take sides or judge them for feeling jealous of their sibling(s).


In summary, the effects of parental favoritism on children can be devastating. Children who feel like they are not as loved by their parents may develop low self-esteem and depression. This can lead to poor academic performance, increased risk-taking behavior and even criminal activity.

If you are a parent or about to become one, it's important for you to understand how your actions might affect your child in the long run. The best way to do this is by talking openly with them about how they feel about being treated differently by you than other siblings or friends at school or elsewhere in life.

If they tell you that they feel like less of an important member of the family because of something specific (like getting less chore money), then try making some changes so that everyone gets equal treatment.

Frequently asked questions about parental favoritism

  1. What is parental favoritism?
    Parental favoritism is when one parent shows preferential treatment to one child over another.
  2. What are some signs of parental favoritism?
    Signs of parental favoritism can include giving more attention or praise to one child, providing more material resources to one child, or being more lenient with one child's behavior.
  3. What are the long-term effects of parental favoritism?
    The long-term effects of parental favoritism can include decreased self-esteem, sibling rivalry, and strained family relationships.
  4. Why do parents show favoritism?
    Parents may show favoritism for various reasons, including personal biases, perceived similarities with one child, or a desire to compensate for perceived shortcomings in one child.
  5. What can the unfavored child do to cope with parental favoritism?
    The unfavored child can work on building their self-esteem, seeking support from outside the family, and setting boundaries with the parent showing favoritism.
  6. Can parental favoritism be a form of emotional abuse?
    Yes, parental favoritism can be a form of emotional abuse that can result in long-lasting negative impacts on the unfavored child.
  7. How can parents prevent showing favoritism towards one child?
    Parents can prevent showing favoritism by treating all children equally, being mindful of their own biases, and giving each child individual attention and support.
  8. What should the favored child do if they realize they are receiving preferential treatment?
    The favored child can work on recognizing their privilege and advocating for equal treatment for their siblings.
  9. Can parental favoritism be resolved?
    Parental favoritism can be resolved through open communication, family therapy, and a commitment to treating all children equally.
  10. How can siblings work towards healing their relationship after experiencing parental favoritism?
    Siblings can work towards healing their relationship by acknowledging the impact of parental favoritism on their relationship, practicing forgiveness, and rebuilding trust and communication.

About the Author

Randi Owsley

Randi Owsley, LMSW is a Licensed Master of Social Worker and clinical psychotherapist and co-host of the podcast Unapologetically Randi and Jess. She has her Masters of Clinical Social Work from the University of Southern California. She specializes in Women's Mental Health Issues, Trauma, Grief and Personality Disorders. You can find more information about her at and

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Exploring the Effects of Parental Favoritism